North Berks League Hop 2015

The North Berkshire League has really always been a village league with the strict ruling that member clubs must be situated within a 20 mile radius of Steventon Green, however, latterly the burgeoning reputation for the League has seen it take in various waifs and strays that have fallen on hard times following exploits at a higher level. Similarly to last year, the 2015 Groundhop commenced with an additional Friday night game at one of the few floodlit grounds in the League. Last season it was Abingdon Town that provided the venue for the additional game to the main event and this time they were the opponents for another club that had also chosen to drop out of the Hellenic League.

Friday September 18th 2015 – North Berks League Div.1

Wallingford Town (0) 0

Abingdon Town (0) 1 (Pitson 60)

Attendance: 125 (at Hithercroft Sports Park)

A very tight encounter with two very evenly matched sides looked initially as if both sides would cancel each other out particularly as both goalkeepers were in fine form. However, it was the visitors that took the points when Steve Pitson netted with aplomb when Wallingford were caught on a swift counter attack.

Hithercroft has changed considerably in recent years notably the old main stand has been replaced by the increasingly ubiquitous Arena Seating modular unit. The club have prepared well and the old double decker bus converted into a bar downstairs and an elevated viewing gallery upstairs is every bit as genial as it is quirky. A crowd of 125 isn’t bad at all considering the ground had been “hopped” in the inaugural North Berks hop and the considerable attraction of the televised England v Fiji opening game of the Rugby World Cup.

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Saturday September 19th 2015 – North Berks League Div.2 (Kick-off: 10.30am)

Hanney United (2) 4 (J.Bishop pen 16, 41, Woodside 77, Webster og 88)

Marcham (2) 2 (Larman 7, Dodds 24)

Attendance: 171 (at War Memorial Ground)

Hanney originally played at The Meads in West Hanney before the War Memorial Hall was built in the 1970’s. The clubs pitch was originally at the far end of the cricket field but in recent years the club has used a pitch to the right of the cricket pitch. The club put on a grand opening to the day’s events making superb use of limited facilities to make sure everyone is fed with breakfast followed by enough cake to give Mr Kipling a run for his money. The North Berks Cup is on display as well as a fascinating display of the clubs history which included winning this handsome trophy in four consecutive seasons in the 1940’s. Heady days for Hanney.

The game itself is an entertaining affair with the opponents Marcham out of the traps the quicker and looking stronger than their hosts. However, an equaliser for the hosts before half time proved pivotal and Hanney dominated the second half as Marcham seemed to run out of puff.

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Saturday September 19th 2015 – North Berks League Div.3 (Kick-off: 13.30pm)

Grove Rangers (4) 4 (Pickering 2, Dix 18, Cramp 21, 23)

Benson Lions (0) 1 (Radcliffe 88)

Attendance: 154 (at Cane Lane)

Grove Rangers have a lengthy history dating back to the turn of the 20th Century and usually play on the pitch behind the clubhouse of Grove Rugby Club. With the oval ball guys also having a big match on today the football club were asked to use the “back pitch” ironically their original pitch often called Wasbrough Field. Still the unexpected change of venue gave the added bonus of the statue of a DeHavilland Venom close by which marks the runway of a wartime RAF base.

The hosts take the lead within two minutes of the start of the game and when three more quickly follow the watching crowd begin to fear for the visitors shorn of many regulars due to active service. However two half time changes, a late arriving centre back and outfield player taking over in goal from another outfield player had a steadying effect and Benson escaped further punishment. Indeed their veteran player/manager Jon Radcliffe earned a late cheer when he scored a cracking goal which was celebrated in equally fine style.

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Saturday September 19th 2015 – North Berks League Div.1 (Kick-off: 16.30pm)

East Hendred (0) 1 (Rowe 48)

Long Wittenham Athletic (1) 1 (Cheong 25)

Attendance: 204 (at Mill Lane)

Back into the top division for the days’ final encounter and the step up shows with both sides looking fitter and faster. Another very even encounter eschews on a good service which sloped alarming downhill in the final third of the pitch at the far end. A goalkeeper taking a goal kick could only be seen from the waist up from the pavilion end such is the camber of the pitch at that end. The match was for the James Rennie Memorial Trophy and a draw was just about the right result although the hosts missed several chances in the second half.

The club put on a great event with curry and Bolognese available as well as yet another cake stall (oh I couldn’t possibly…well ok then just a small piece). The club live up to their nickname of The Owls by having a local expert conduct a display with a collection of different owls, one of which was purported to be 36 years old. East Hendred were originally formed in 1912 but folded in 1982 due to a lack of volunteers. Fortunately they reformed in 1994 and gained promotion to the top division last season having finished runners up in Division 2. On today’s display they certainly do not look out of place in the top tier.

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North of the Forth (Dunfermline Athletic)

Dunfermline Athletic were formed in 1885 and have always played at East End Park. The club were formed out of a cricket club based at Lady’s Mill (now McKane Park) and acquired the land that became the current East End Park for £3,500 in 1920 from the North British Railway Company. Prior to this the original orientation of the ground was further to the west of the current site. Similarly to many Scottish stadiums, the club garnered vital additional income during the Great Depression of the 1930’s by reconfiguring the ground to cater for greyhound racing. It was in this decade that the club bolstered existing terracing with wood salvaged from the great ocean liner RMS Mauretania which was being broken up at the nearby dockyards of Rosyth. The 50’s and 60’s saw some welcome modernisation which allowed a record attendance of 27,816 for the visit of Celtic in April 1968. The occasion was tempered by chaotic scenes of spectators scaling the floodlight pylons for a better view. One man subsequently died from his injuries after falling off.

The ground was significantly redeveloped during the late 1990’s and became the superb all-seater venue it is today. In 1998 the club named a stand after the clubs record appearance holder, Norrie McCathie, who had died two years previously at the age of 34, along with his girlfriend, after carbon monoxide escaped while they slept at home. His image adorns the stand and McCathie is revered for his battling spirit among the Pars faithful. It is a privilege to take my seat in his stand tonight, for here is a genuine leader and legend.

The club were originally nicknamed “The Dumps” but this was superseded by “The Pars” which has a plethora of folklore as to its origin. Theories espoused include their traditional parallel black pinstriped shirts, a corruption of the word “paralytics” based on their celebrated drinking prowess or indeed their parallel style of play. The club’s iconic badge is worthy of mention, designed in 1957 by an art teacher at the local High School. The eye catching design depicts the local monument of Malcolm Canmore’s Tower in Pittencrieff Glen.

The Pars golden era came undoubtedly in the 1960’s when under the guidance of Jock Stein they became regulars in the UEFA and Cup Winners Cup. Nowadays the Pars find themselves in the third tier and have thankfully survived some severe recent financial problems. Tonight is a big night for the Pars and indeed the League One table. The Pars are second trailing runaway leaders Rangers who boast maximum points from their 16 League games to date this season. The Sky Sports cameras are in town as the Halbeath Road throngs excitably with East End boys and East End girls plus a truly impressive turn out from the visitors. The “Sold Out” signs go up and the Dunfermline coffers jangle with some very welcome revenue in what has been a particularly austere time for the club.

The opening fifteen minutes are even as both sides have chances, however once Fraser Aird bursts clear from the home defence after 22 minutes and finishes with great style, the visitors take a keen grip on proceedings. They rattle in three high quality goals in the second period and are good value for the win which extends their lead in the table to fourteen points. You do have to take your hat off to Rangers who have just rolled their sleeves up and got on with things since they paid a heavy price for financial mismanagement. The Pars however can hold their heads high, a young team under the guidance of the wily veteran Jim Jeffries, have performed well under a cloud of financial constraint. Dunfermline will challenge for promotion until the end of the season. The spirit of Norrie McCathie, both on and off the field, is evident for all to see.


Scottish Professional Football League One – Monday December 30th 2013

Dunfermline Athletic (0) 0

Rangers (1) 4 (Aird 22, Clark 51, Law 70, Crawford 90)

Attendance: 10,089 (at East End Park)


1. Ryan Scully, 2. Ryan Williamson, 3. Alex Whittle, 4. Stephen Husband, 5. Kerr Young, 6. Lewis Martin, 7. Andrew Geggan, 8. Shaun Byrne, 9. Ryan Wallace, 10. Josh Falkingham (c), 11. Jordan Moore.

Subs: 12. Lewis Spence (for 2,89 mins), 14. Allan Smith (for 8,77 mins), 15. Craig Dargo, 16. Faissal El Bakhtaoumi, 17. Chris Kane, 18. Ross Drummond, 19. Robin Goodfellow.


1. Cammy Bell, 2. Sebastien Faure, 3. Bilel Mohsni, 4. Steven Smith, 5. Lee Wallace, 6. Lee McCulloch (c), 7. Fraser Aird, 8. Ian Black, 9. Jon Daly, 10. Nicky Clark, 11. Nicky Law.

Subs: 12. Lewis McLeod (for 4,57 mins), 14. Arnold Peralta, 15. Dean Shiels, 16. Emilson Cribari, 17. Steve Simonsen, 18. Richard Foster (for 10,69 mins), 19. Robbie Crawford (for 8,79 mins)

Yellow Cards: Falkingham, Young, Geggan (Dunfermline), Mohsni and Aird (Rangers).


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